Published: May 27th 2012May 27th 2012
In February 2012, my services were enlisted to attend to an electrical matter on a ship in Douala.
The flight, via Libreville, Gabon, was quite tiring, and it was relief to get my sore butt off the plane.
After a long wait for the baggage to reach the carousel, we were whisked into town by the agent, who had our passports. More on that later.
It transpired that I would lodge at the Hotel Prince de Galles
, in Akwa, downtown Douala.
The ride into town was daunting, to say the least. Some vehicles drive without their lights at night. The roads are in poor condition, but the show goes on.
After checking in, I dropped my bags in my room and headed off to the pub downstairs. The only local brews were Castel, and the draught beer, which was good. The display fridge was well stocked with Heineken, Guiness, and surprisingly Windhoek Lager from Namibia.
Breakfast the next morning was disappointing. The menu had the usual "Continental Breakfast" consisting of coffee, croissants, jam and cheese, but the bains marie were totally devoid of any food at 06H30 when breakfast was meant to commence. On
top of it, the waitperson tried to charge me for the full buffet breakfast, that only arrived at 07H00.
Waiting for our lift to the harbour, I noticed the pool and pool bar outside. The pool was devoid of any water and remained like this for most of my stay. The driver was late, then it was running the gauntlet of traffic to the harbour. The small motorcycle taxis, 125cc to 250cc were incredible, carrying up to four passengers at a time. There are about 100 000 of these two-wheel taxis in Douala, and only 6 000 are registered with the authorities.
After arriving at the berth, we started work on the ship. Later that afternoon, I noticed a few canoes in the estuary and saw them fishing for crabs, or any other fish for the pot. I noticed a canoe with an outboard motor and several passengers skimming along the river, too.
Back at the hotel, the bar was packed with men. There were some French sailors from a visiting naval ship, and they bought the entire stock of Heineken, much to the chagrin of my Dutch companions.
When the time came to fly home,
Two young fishermen
the agent informed us that our passports were "lost". Oh no! Once they became aware of the fact that we intended reporting the matter to the police, our passports were mysteriously found, albeit a day later.
Going through immigation was hassle-free, and soon I was on my way back home, after stopping at Libreville to take on more passengers.